Dee, a pharmacy school classmate 60 years ago, recently found me on Facebook. We’ve had fun emailing about old friends and times. I’m hoping to visit her sometime this spring to be able to go into more detail.

Dee was married for a long time to one of my friends from school. We also talked about Pat, my naturally closest friend in college. I told her that Pat and I never pursued a romantic relationship because our families belonged to different Christian sects that had strong, unresolvable religious beliefs. The situation then might have been somewhat similar to the Shiite-Sunni division within the Muslim faith today. “Oh, the religion thing,” Dee responded. She’d known we were good friends but didn’t know how that part of the story unfolded.

As I understood it in those days, interpretations of the doctrines in Pat’s Catholic church were prescriptive regarding behaviors leading to the three possibilities after death: entrance into heaven, an unknowably long period in purgatory, or descent into permanent hell.

My understanding of our Methodist views on life after death, a contradiction I failed to notice then, were somewhat vague but seemed to be liberal and hold hope for nearly everyone to go to heaven.   

Complicating Pat’s and my possible hopes for other than a platonic friendship was the fact that, while I was growing up, we lived in the flat over Dad’s barbershop in the Catholic end of town. Richmond is a town that is 2 miles long and mostly two blocks wide. Nearly everyone lives on or merely a stone’s throw from Main Street.

Our end of town was, and still is, anchored by a huge fieldstone Catholic church, rectory, nunnery and school. Many of Dad’s customers were Catholic. He knew every one of the succession of priests and cut most of their hair. We got along with the Catholics quite well, but never all that comfortably. We had an underlying dread that the church’s aim was world domination — like what later became our national panic over communism.

When I invited Pat to visit and meet my parents, the fate of any fantasies either of us might have had for further relationship development was sealed as far as both families were concerned. We accommodated to the situation by staying good friends.     

A few years ago we renewed our relationship and regularly exchange emails. With our spouses, we’ve met for lunch a couple of times. We’ve had very different and satisfying lives and what might have been doesn’t matter.

I don’t know how Pat feels, but I would have preferred that we’d been free back then to let nature take its course. I wonder what the natural end of our relationship might have been.

It doesn’t seem right that irrational fears and policies, principles and positions contained in doctrines written and enforced by fallible humans, based on myths, abstract beliefs and inconclusive scripture would interfere with natural relationships.

Today I believe that maturity has prepared me to better cope with life’s unnatural twists and turns.

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